Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 7

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and CollegesCambridge Greek Testament Commentary

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Verses 1-99

Ch. 7:1. Having therefore these promises ] Literally, promises such as these ( soche promeses , Tyndale and Cranmer), i.e. those that have just been mentioned.

let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness ] Rather, defilement (see last note but two), sin taking the place of ‘the unclean thing’ under the law. For what is meant by defilement in the case of a Christian, see Matthew 15:18-20 ; Mark 7:20-23 , where, however, the word translated ‘defile’ means to make common , i.e. to reduce to the same condition as the rest of mankind. Here it is the stain of sin which is the predominant idea.

of the flesh and spirit ] i.e. inward as well as outward. See 1 Samuel 16:7 ; Matthew 12:34 , Matthew 12:35 . The outward defilement is caused by sins of the flesh , or bodily part of man, the inward by those of the spirit, such as pride, unbelief, and the like.

perfecting holiness in the fear of God ] Perfection, and nothing less, is to be the aim of the Christian. Cf. Matthew 5:48 ; Romans 12:2 ; Colossians 1:22 , Colossians 1:28 , Colossians 1:4 :12. With this view he is to cleanse himself daily by sincere repentance from every defilement of sin, and to watch that he offend not in like kind again. Cf. also 1 Thessalonians 4:3 ; 1 Peter 3:15 . The fear of offending God (cf. ch. 5:11) is a very necessary element in the process of sanctification. “We cannot do without awe: there is no depth of character without it. Tender motives are not enough to restrain from sin.” Robertson.

2 16. Exhortation to set aside all suspicion and to confide in the Apostle’s love and zeal for their spiritual well-being

2. Receive us ] Literally, Make room for us (‘capaces estote nostri,’ Erasmus and Calvin. Tyndale and Cranmer, incorrectly, understonde us ). The word here used is to be found in the sense of having room for in Mark 2:2 ; John 2:6 , John 21:25 . These words have reference to ch. 6:12, 14, where see notes. The connection of what follows with what has just preceded is to be found in the thought which underlies the whole, that St Paul’s only desire is the spiritual advancement of his flock.

we have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man ] Perhaps these words should be rendered ‘we wronged, corrupted, defrauded no man,’ i.e. during the course of our ministry at Corinth. St Paul here refers to the charges brought against him. He had been accused of wronging the Corinthians by claiming an authority to which he had no right, and which he turned to his own account (see 1 Corinthians 9:1-6 ; 2 Corinthians 1:12-17 , 2 Corinthians 1:5 :12, 2 Corinthians 1:6 :3, 2 Corinthians 1:4 , 2 Corinthians 1:12 , 10:2 Corinthians 1:7-11 , 2 Corinthians 1:11 :7, 2 Corinthians 1:12 :14); of corrupting them by preaching false doctrine, 2:17, 4:2 (unless, with Thomas Aquinas, we interpret it of bad example ); of defrauding them, 12:17, 18, where the word here used is translated ‘make a gain of.’ To this he replies by challenging them to prove their assertions, to name a single instance in which he had done either. Dr Plumptre regards the words ‘corrupted’ and ‘defrauded’ as referring to sensual sin, and illustrates by the revolting charges of immorality brought against the Christians by those who misinterpreted their brotherly and sisterly affection. It is true that the word here translated ‘defrauded’ seems to have a reference to something more than mere greed of gain. See note on 1 Corinthians 5:10 , 1 Corinthians 5:11 . Still, the word translated ‘corrupted’ and its derivatives do not appear to have had any such restricted sense in St Paul. See, for instance, 1 Corinthians 3:17 , ch. 11:3 of this Epistle; and, in a less degree, Ephesians 4:22 . And, however common such charges were in the days of Minucius Felix and Tertullian, they are not hinted at elsewhere in Scripture, but rather the contrary. See 1 Peter 4:4 ; 2 Peter 2:2 .

3. I speak not this to condemn you ] “It might seem as if this were spoken at them with indirect reproach. Therefore he adds, ‘I am not reproaching you for past injustice: I only say these things to assure you of my undiminished love.’ ” Robertson.

for I have said before ] See ch. 1:6, 4:10 12, 15, 5:11, 13 15.

you are in our hearts to die and live with you ] “There is one thing in the character of St Paul which often escapes observation. Carlyle calls him an ‘unkempt Apostle Paul,’ and some say of him, ‘he was a man rude, brave, true, unpolished.’ We all know his integrity, his truth, his daring, his incorruptible honesty. But besides these, there was a refined and delicate courtesy, which was for ever taking off the edge of his sharpest rebukes, and sensitively anticipating every pain his words might give.” Robertson. He refers to Philemon 1:8 , Philemon 1:12 , Philemon 1:14 , Philemon 1:17-20 ; Acts 26:29 ; and Philippians 3:18 . See also 1 Corinthians 4:14 ; 2 Corinthians 6:11-13 , 2 Corinthians 9:4 , and the whole of the present chapter. Robertson’s whole commentary on this chapter is invaluable to any one who desires to grasp the full meaning of the Apostle. For the expression ‘in our hearts,’ see Philippians 1:7 . The commentators have pointed out a similar expression to that in the text in Horace, Odes , III. 9. 24, “Tecum vivere amem, tecum obeam libens.” Wordsworth refers to the Theban sacred band, and to a similar passage in Athenaeus. But a deeper meaning is suggested by a comparison of ch. 4:10, 11, 12 and notes. Also cf. ch. 3:2.

4. Great is my boldness of speech toward you ] Cf. note on ch. 3:12.

great is my glorying of you ] See notes on ch. 1:14 and ch. 5:12. The word here signifies not the ground of rejoicing or boasting, but, as A. V., the act itself. St Paul explains his boldness of speech by the confidence he has that it will not be misplaced. This is another instance of the delicate tact of the Apostle referred to above.

comfort ] For this word and tribulation , see notes on ch. 1:3, 4. So also below in vv . 6, 7.

I am exceeding joyful ] Literally, I abound overmuch with Joy . The English word exceedingly has lost much of its original force.

5. For, when we were come into Macedonia ] See Acts 20:1 and ch. 2:13.

our flesh had no rest ] The word translated rest means rather ease, remission of care . The phrase is precisely the same as in ch. 2:13, with the substitution of ‘flesh’ for ‘spirit.’ The change of expression is noticeable, and must imply that St Paul’s inward anguish, like that of other men, seriously affected his bodily health. See Robertson’s note. There is a peculiar vividness in the Greek and in ch. 2:13 here, which can hardly be reproduced in a translation.

without were fightings, within were fears ] Literally and more emphatically, fightings without, fears within ( without forth figtyngis and dredis withynne , Wiclif). The first were probably controversies with gainsayers such as always attended St Paul’s fervent preaching of the Gospel. A ‘door,’ we read, had been opened to him at Troas (see note on ch. 2:12). What results were likely to follow from this we learn from Acts 13:45 , Acts 13:14 :4, Acts 13:5 , Acts 13:19 , Acts 13:16 :19, 17:Acts 13:5-8 , Acts 13:13 , &c. What the fears were scarcely needs explanation. They related to the mission of Titus and its reception by the Corinthians.

6. those that are cast down ] The word ταπεινὸς , says Dean Stanley, never (except in metaphors in the N.T.) has the meaning of ‘humble,’ but only acquired such a meaning in later times to express the Christian grace of humility. It occurs in Matthew 11:29 ; Luke 1:52 ; James 4:6 ; 1 Peter 5:5 . In Romans 7:16 and in James 1:9 it is translated men of low degree , or estate . See also note on ch. 10:1. The substantive formed from it is translated humility and humbleness of mind , save in Philippians 2:3 , where we have lowliness of mind; while the verb is used in Luke 3:5 of the hills being made low, and in Philippians 2:8 of what is called the ‘humiliation’ of Christ.

by the coming of Titus ] “ ‘By the coming and presence of Titus,’ as in the frequent use of the word to describe the Advent of Christ.” Stanley. See Matthew 24:3 ; 1 Corinthians 15:23 ; 1 Thessalonians 2:19 , 1 Thessalonians 2:3 :13, 1 Thessalonians 2:4 :15; 2 Thessalonians 2:1 , &c.

7. and not by his coming only, but by the consolation ] See ch. 2:14, which is explained by this passage. It was not the mere presence of Titus, but the tidings he brought, which so rejoiced the Apostle.

fervent mind ] Literally, zeal ( loue , Wiclif). Our translation is due to Tyndale, who seems to have borne in mind the derivation of the word from a verb signifying to boil up . Meyer translates it ‘your warm interest in me,’ and explains by ‘to appease me, to obey me and the like.’ The word has also an evil sense in Scripture jealousy , as in 1 Corinthians 3:3 ; Galatians 5:20 ; and ch. 12:20. There is an instance of an intermediate sense in ch. 11:2. It seems to signify any warm or strong feeling with regard to a person, whether for good or for evil.

8. with a letter ] Rather, by the letter , i.e. the First Epistle.

though I did repent ] “There was a moment in the Apostle’s life when he half regretted what he had done. To some persons this would be perplexing. They cannot understand how an inspired Apostle could regret what he had done: if it were done by inspiration, what room could there be for misgivings? And if he regretted an act done under God’s guidance, just as any common man might regret a foolish act, how could the Apostle be inspired? But this, which might perplex some, exhibits the very beauty and naturalness of the whole narrative. God’s inspiration does not take a man and make a passive machine of him. When God inspires, His spirit mixes with the spirit of man in the form of thought, not without struggles and misgivings of the human element Otherwise it would not be inspiration of the man, but simply a Divine echo through the man.” Robertson. Similar conflicts of the human with the Divine in the inspired writers maybe seen in Exodus 4:10-14 , Exodus 4:6 :12; Jeremiah 1:6-9 , Jeremiah 1:14 :13, 20:Jeremiah 1:7-9 , Jeremiah 1:14-18 , and in the whole book of Jonah.

for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry ] There are a good many various readings here, and the editors have adopted various punctuations, possibly from the difficulty mentioned in the last note. But in truth there need be no such difficulty. The right course was that taken in the First Epistle, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But after the Epistle was sent, the tender human heart of St Paul doubted whether he had done right, whether he had not given unnecessary pain, and the like, and his mind was not fully set at rest on the point until the arrival of Titus shewed him clearly the hand of God in the matter. Such self-questionings are constantly going on in the mind of every conscientious man, even when he has been acting most thoroughly under the guidance of God’s Spirit. The word here translated made sorry , which is owing to Wiclif, is the same word which in ch. 2 is rendered ‘caused grief’ and ‘grieved.’

9. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry ] Another instance of the tender consideration of St Paul (see note on v . 3). He will not run the risk of being supposed, even for a moment, to have taken pleasure in others’ pain.

repentance ] It cannot be too strongly insisted upon that the Greek word translated repentance ( penaunce , Wiclif and the Rhemish Version) contains neither the idea of sorrow nor of penitential discipline. The word means change of mind or purpose . Sorrow may or may not accompany it. In most cases, as in this, it will do so. But the essence of Gospel repentance is not the sorrow it produces, but the change it works. The word translated repent in v . 8 is a different word, and has precisely the meaning usually in our days attached to the word repentance . It, or its cognate verb, only occurs here and in Matthew 21:29 , Matthew 21:32 , Matthew 21:27 :3, and Hebrews 7:21 . It is a misfortune that the A. V. has employed the same word to express two very different ideas.

after a godly manner ] The original is stronger, according to God , i.e. in such a manner as He had commanded or would approve. Cf. Romans 8:27 .

receive damage ] The word signifies to suffer injury or loss. See Matthew 16:26 , where it is translated lose ; Luke 9:25 , where it is translated cast away . See also 1 Corinthians 3:15 . Wiclif renders here suffer pairement ; Tyndale, ye were hurte ; the Rhemish, well, suffer detriment .

10. For godly sorrow worketh repentance ] Rather, For the sorrow which is according to God ( that is aftir God , Wiclif) worketh change of mind . The difference between the true repentance and the false remorse may be illustrated by the cases of David and Saul, St Peter and Judas.

to salvation not to be repented of ] Or not to be regretted , the word here used involving the idea of sorrow or anxiety. It is by most commentators connected with salvation, as though that were the result not to be regretted. But it may as naturally be referred to the change of mind. “The beautiful law is,” says Robertson, “that in proportion as the repentance increases, the grief diminishes. ‘I rejoice,’ says St Paul, ‘that I made you sorry, though it were but for a time .’ Grief for a time, but repentance for ever.”

but the sorrow of the world ] i.e. of the world untouched and un-regenerated by the Spirit of God the sorrow of the natural man, “the opposite of the sorrow according to God.” Stanley. See 1 Corinthians 2:14 .

worketh death ] Death of the body , sometimes, as when despair tempts to suicide, or brings on deadly sickness. Death of the soul , when sorrow fails to melt the heart, but leads it to that state of rebellious stubbornness, of entire alienation from God, which is expressed in the words “hardness of heart and contempt of His word and commandment.” Cf. Proverbs 17:22 .

11. after a godly sort ] See note on last verse. Also v . 9.

what carefulness ] Literally diligence (so Tyndale and Grammer; bisynes , Wiclif; moral earnestness , Robertson). See Mark 6:25 ; Luke 1:39 , where it is translated haste .

what clearing of yourselves ] Literally, defence or excuse , but a better translation than that in the text is impossible.

indignation ] or vexation , a sort of feeling between indignation and disgust at themselves for having been ‘puffed up,’ and not having ‘rather mourned that he that had done this deed had not been taken away from among them.’ 1 Corinthians 5:2 .

fear ] Ne cum virga venirem . Bengel. See 1 Corinthians 4:21 , and v . 15. Or, perhaps, fear of God’s wrath. See v . 1. But cf. note below.

vehement desire ] Rather, longing , i.e. for St Paul’s presence (see Philippians 1:8 , Philippians 1:2 :26; 1 Thessalonians 3:6 ; also ch. 5:2, 9:14). The same word in v . 7 is translated earnest desire . Theophylact detects here another instance of the anxiety of the Apostle not to lay too much stress on his authority. To the idea of fear he immediately subjoins that of affection.

zeal ] ( a fervent mynde , Tyndale). See note on v . 7.

revenge ] punysshment , Tyndale. The word is used of punishment inflicted by judicial process. See Luke 18:3 . Also ch. 10:6. Such a process had taken place in this case. Cf. 1 Corinthians 5:4 , 1 Corinthians 5:5 , with 2 Corinthians 2:6 . Bengel remarks that the six results mentioned by the Apostle fall into three pairs. The first two relate to their feelings towards themselves, the next to their feelings towards the Apostle, the last to their feelings towards the offender and his offence.

12. for his cause that had done the wrong ] See 1 Corinthians 5:1 .

nor for his cause that suffered wrong ] From this it has been inferred that the father of the offender was still alive .

but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you ] Many MSS., versions, and editors read that your care for us might appear to you . Whichever be the true reading, the alteration has either sprung from a desire to alter the passage into conformity with the supposed meaning of the Apostle, or from similarity of sound, in the case of a copyist writing from oral dictation. Either reading would make good sense, but that in the text is more probable for two reasons: (1) the Apostle has been all along insisting on the purity of his motives and on his unfeigned affection for his Corinthian converts (ch. 2:17, 4:2); and (2) it seems rather unlikely that he should have wished the Corinthians to manifest their earnestness in his behalf unto themselves . See, however, on the other hand, ch. 2:9, and cf. Calvin, who says “St Paul congratulates the Corinthians on having learned at length by this test, how they were disposed towards him.” The word here translated care is the same as that rendered carefulness in the last verse.

13. Therefore we were comforted in your comfort ] Most modern editors punctuate as follows: ‘Therefore we were comforted. And in addition to (or in consequence of) our comfort we rejoiced a very great deal more at the joy of Titus,’ ‘our’ being read for the ‘your’ of the A. V.

exceedingly the more ] See note on v . 4.

14. I am not ashamed ] Rather, ‘I was not ashamed,’ i.e. at his return.

but as we spake ] i.e. when we were with you.

15. his inward affection] Bowels , margin. See note on ch. 6:12. The translation here is Tyndale’s.

more abundant ] Literally, more exceeding . See note on v . 4.

the obedience of you all ] Cf. ch. 2:9, and 10:6.

16. I rejoice therefore ] Our translation follows the Geneva version here. There is no ‘therefore’ in the best MSS. and versions. It is found neither in Wiclif, Tyndale, nor Cranmer. And the somewhat abrupt conclusion is in harmony with St Paul’s style. Cf. 1 Corinthians 5:13 , where a similar attempt has been made by some copyist to soften down the abruptness.

that I have confidence in you ] Tyndale and Cranmer translate that I may be bolde over you . Our version here again follows the Geneva Bible. Wiclif renders trist . But the word is not that usually rendered ‘have confidence’ in the N. T. The Apostle’s meaning is rather, that in every thing I am of good courage in consequence of your conduct . From this chapter, says Robertson, we learn “the value of explanations. Had St Paul left the matter unsettled, or only half settled, there never could have been a hearty understanding between him and the Corinthians. Whenever there is a misunderstanding between man and man, the true remedy is a direct and open request for explanation.” Cf. Matthew 18:15-17 .

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 2 Corinthians 7". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.